Microneedling punctures your skin and undermines the protective barrier, causing sudden changes in the structure of your skin that it then has to repair.
Lately, it seems that everyone is turning to microneedling, and who can blame them? Just look online, and it is apparently the answer to all of your skin related woes – and the hottest trend in beauty right now.
Scare-mongering is not what this article is about – nor my philosophy, but as with all things in life, there are risks associated with this treatment.
I have been inundated with emails from readers which you can read below, and many clients have been referred to me, who have been both physically and psychologically scarred as a result of this treatment, so I really wanted to address this treatment, for those who are considering it.
They Say: Microneedling is a collagen-stimulating treatment that uses needles to injure the skin; this stimulates collagen and elastin production, resulting in improved skin texture, pores, fine lines, and more.
Naked Chemist Truth: Microneedling tears through the epidermis – the top layer of the skin – creating tiny puncture marks which play havoc with your skin’s natural defence mechanisms, which have to work hard to repair these tiny micro-tears through collagen induction. This causes a whole host of skin conditions.
It does not tighten your skin; it swells your skin: You must understand the concept, ‘needling promotes skin collagen’. Because you’re temporarily injuring your skin, the tightening effect is plump, swollen skin.
It does not create a glowing complexion: That ‘lit-from-within’ glow is a result of the inflammation it triggers, and as I believe inflammation is at the source of premature ageing, it is a big no-no in my book.
This is a serious procedure
At any depth, even a 0.2mm puncture can cause inflammatory responses that lead to problems. Not only that, but you are effectively injecting active serums at a depth where serums are not meant to go! Not everyone should needle, as you can cause irreparable harm.
Bottom line: If your skin is impaired, it requires a super-healthy skin response, and if your skin is stressed at all, you are almost certainly at risk of damage.
Clemmy from London wrote: “The microneedling felt like it shredded my skin beneath the surface, my once perfect skin is ruined and I feel like I could cry, it has lost all firmness and support. I know it has been structurally damaged. I’ve had such a bad reaction it flared up. It was awful. I looked grazed all over I didn’t want to leave the house for ages after 6 months it is only just recovering.”
Nancy from Australia wrote: “The next photo is the day of the microneedling, you can see my face is very swollen and I have scratch like marks on my face, I was shaking during the procedure, I should have known something was wrong then. I was told to do a course of peels to get rid of the lines and this sent my skin into inflammation mode. Today my skin has tiny holes and lines in it. With your help it has been slowly repairing, but it has been a long road.”
Quick side note: For this reason, I recommend avoiding peels, lasers, or active topicals to try to reverse the damage done. Instead, work to rebuild the barrier and balance the delicate micro-flora with skin-identical ingredients that are missing, bringing your skins pH back into balance holistically, which equates to healthy skin.
Angela, a client, experienced the following: “I am 43 and had one session of microneedling. My face became inflamed and I have been battling severe facial burning ever since. My previously smooth skin is scarred all over with lines, huge pores and a strange texture. I have been to a few dermatologists who have no idea what to do, it severely damaged my lipid barrier. Your advice and skincare especially Fortify barrier repair cream, is helping to rebuild my barrier I can’t thank you enough.”
Marian from the USA wrote: “Micro rolling seriously destroyed my skin. It left bumps and holes and requires total resurfacing, which I am scared to have. It has dried out my skin and given me lines I did not previously have, on top of the bumps and holes. In short, microneedling is UNSAFE.”
Jen from Australia wrote: “After having numerous tests (had to go back to the hospital a second time because they didn’t take enough blood the first time) the blood test results were normal so no autoimmune disorders which is good. I have had 25 pages of blood test results as my dermatologist was very thorough and he has figured out what the microneedling has done to my skin. He believes I have solid facial edema, very rare. I’m now on roaccutane & may need to be on it for 1-2 years, although my skin is responding this will be a very long battle to get rid of this. I’m completely shattered. I would NEVER recommend microneedling to anyone, in fact I warn all my friends about it so they never suffer the way I am suffering. Your Bio lipid has been a life saver I refer to it as liquid gold.”
For those of you who commented, thank you for sharing and I really hope together we can rebuild the health of your skin through a well thought-out skincare and supplementation regime. Hopefully, this article will also help others who are contemplating this procedure.
If you are unfortunate enough to have suffered a serious reaction, let’s take a look at the problems that can go wrong and why. That way, you will be able to connect the dots about what you can do to repair your skin.
Do not treat your skin with microneedling if you have the following, ever!
- Active acne
- Keloid scarring
- A cigarette smoker
- Prior Roaccutane user
- Signs of active infection
- Sensitive or impaired skin
- Eczema or dermatitis sufferers
- Very dark or unstable skin type
- You are a 1, 2, or 3 on the Fitzpatrick scale
- Autoimmune problems of the skin, such as Lupus
- If you have had a topical treatment (such as peels or laser) in the last 12 weeks
In a nutshell, anything that will affect your skin’s natural healing ability.
You should absolutely NEVER have this treatment on skin that has breakouts or is irritated or inflamed, or has active acne or eczema.
Why? You could spread bacteria around your face and increase your risk of serious infection. In fact, if you have active acne or cystic acne, I don’t recommend microneedling until your acne is 100% clear. Even if you have a pimple, be sure to avoid that area completely.
If you have sensitive skin that can become red or flushed, if you suffer from rosacea, or if your skin doesn’t tolerate products well, then you need to be very careful. This treatment causes inflammation on the skin, disrupting the protective barrier and increasing penetration of active ingredients. I appreciate this may sound counter-intuitive, because microneedling is all about better product penetration, but when active ingredients go deeper into skin, the risk of irritation goes up. If, after reading this, you still want to experiment with microneedling, you should carry out a patch test (discussed in my article, “Microneedling Treatment”)
Side Effects, Contraindications, and Complications
Whilst there are many general side effects of microneedling – including bleeding, slight bruising, redness, dryness, and skin flakiness – some may experience more severe side effects:
- Swollen face
- Impaired barrier
- Sensitivity to heat
- Permanent scarring
- Indentations in the skin
- Sensitivity to topical products
- Rashes, inflammation, or hives
- Skin that becomes dry, tight, or inelastic
- Hyper and Hypo-pigmentary changes in the skin
Infection: It doesn’t always look the way you think, such as with swelling, pus, and redness. Some infections can appear a lot more subtle, where the skin just stays irritated and doesn’t heal. What is happening here is that your body’s immune system is holding the offending bacteria, fungus, or virus in partial check, but isn’t strong enough to eliminate it.
Allergic or irritant reactions: These can range from barely visible to extreme ongoing pain and itching. This is not normal; pain associated with this treatment should be temporary and last no longer than a day.
Redness and texture changes: These changes are common, as treatment pumps the skin, increasing blood flow and collagen, but should reduce in a few days.
Treatment for impaired skin
A big question I’m often asked is, will my skin ever return to normal? You can heal your skin once it has been damaged by microneedling, but how long it takes depends on the amount of damage done. From experience in my own clinic, some people may heal in between 6 to 12 weeks in line with cellular turnover. Sadly, for others, it can take a couple of years – but with the correct treatment protocol and effective ingredients, it is achievable.
You require a three-pronged, holistic approach.
Employ a consistent skin care regime with gentle topicals that are barrier repairing – nothing too active, as that will inflame the skin further.
Use topical actives such as H2O Hydrating Complex combined with Urea to help re-hydrate the skin’s tissues. A low-strength Vitamin C will help to rebuild collagen and elastin naturally. DNA contains copper peptides that help to rebuild fragile skin. Bio-lipid and Fortify are specifically designed to rebuild the barrier function and replenish skin-identical ingredients that are missing as a result of harsh treatments.
Your skin is the largest organ of the body, so make sure you’re feeding it repairing foods, including vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin C, B complexes, Zinc, and essential fatty acids.
Treatment for complications after microneedling
- Keep copies of records and take before and after photos
- Where a risk of infection may be present, ask for a bacterial culture or swab to be done on your skin
- A small biopsy can be carried out for “tissue culture” to look for deeper or unusual bacteria or other organisms
- If there is any question of skin allergy, especially if a lot of chemicals were microneedled into the skin, an allergist may be able to help
- If you’re concerned about an infectious disease, or difficult or unusual infections in the skin, consult a doctor
- If you have any hormonal or other issues affecting your healing, an endocrinologist may help
The Naked Truth
The bottom line. Be careful with how you treat your skin; you have a responsibility to take care of your primary organ that protects you every second of your life.
If all of this does sound alarming, but you still want to treat your skin with microneedling, below is my checklist on things you should consider before undergoing microneedling:
- Know your skin type and where on the Fitzgerald scale it fits into
- Do your research, and ensure your therapist has many years of experience and understands microneedling at a technical level
- Do consider the type of machine used, there are less complaints from those who have been treated with a derma pen
- Do listen to your skin! We are all metabolically different. If you feel your skin is compromised, don’t embark on any invasive treatment, not just microneedling
- Ensure you get a thorough consultation, and that they discuss the post-treatment protocol with you.
- Do make sure you take close-up photos of your skin beforehand; if the therapist involved decides to try and deny responsibility, you will have proof
- Do be consistent with treatments and use quality serums and vitamins, both internally and externally, to repair and protect your skin – but nothing too active
- Don’t use a combination of treatments coupled with an energy-based device, as there is also the risk of burns to consider
- Your therapist must be really well trained on their device so they really understand how they behave. I’ve seen patients over the years who’ve sustained iatrogenic injuries which have resulted in scarring after devices have been dragged across the skin